It’s never too late to do what you love, Kelly Marshall learned.
The Bonney Lake resident started her first career in radio in Reynolds, Va. at a country music station more than four decades ago.
“Originally I wanted to be the first Barbara Walters,” Marshall said.
She stuck to working in radio rooms all around the country for more than 30 years, loving every minute of it. Her work culminated toward earning the Best Mid-Day Music Show in San Diego award at the first annual Achievement in Radio Awards in 1998.
But even so, being a household-name radio host wasn’t Marshall’s first dream – it was writing.
“I always wanted to be a writer, from the time I was very young,” she said, but she never found the time in her radio job.
So when she left the recording room to start working for the Transportation Security Administration (and eventually for Social Security), she finally found the time to pick up a pen and put it to paper.
The last 17 years of writing (and several spent self-publishing) has brought her to this point, where for the second year in a row, Marshall has been named one of the “50 Great Writers You Should Be Reading” by The Author’s Show.
Last year, she was named in the contest for featuring her romance novel, “The Chair.” Marshall was featured again in 2016 for her work on two murder mystery novels.
“The Chair” (2015) originally wasn’t hers. The idea for the novel was thought up by her high school English teacher, Larry Flanders, who she ran into at a class reunion years after he taught her.
“He started this book – it was a strange little thing – he only did a couple of chapters. And he said, ‘I never got back to this, but I’d like you to finish it,’” Marshall said. “That’s how ‘The Chair’ came to be.”
“The Chair” is what Marshall called “a sweet romance,” which she wrote “gently” partly because it was her former teacher’s work.
Her murder mysterious, though, are decidedly not gentle.
“I warn people when they read the book,” she said. “They’re salacious. They do have a lot of sex in them. It’s not pornographic, but it can be a little salacious. It’s kind of my own ‘50 Shades’ maybe, but it’s not that bad either.”
Marshall’s murder mystery books follows two fictional Seattle cops.
“I wanted to write something uniquely different, because everybody has done the thing with partner cops,” she said. “So, what I did for the first one, I came up with this premise that there’s these two cops, male and female – he’s straight, she’s gay – and they end up falling in love with the same woman.”
The first book featuring Nick Winston and Pat Strom, “6 White Roses,” came out in 2014, and was followed by “The Radio Murders,” last August.
The third book in the series, “Kiss The Girls and Make Them Die,” is scheduled to come out in the next couple of months, Marshall said, adding that she has plans for a fourth book, but for the moment, she’s going to take a few months off from writing to work on marketing for her work.
SUCCESSFUL WRITING, SUCCESSFUL MARKETING
To be successful in writing means different things to different people, Marshall said. Some people are perfectly happy to just write because they love writing.
But for her, being a successful writer also means being a successful marketer.
“Marketing is a lot harder than writing,” she said. “You have to market almost as much as you write.”
Marshall just signed on with a new marketing company, which is going to help her promote her book and her image as a writer for the next few months as she takes a break from writing.
Part of that plan, obviously, involves social media and the internet.
“We all know about ‘going viral.’ We want that,” she said, adding that she especially uses Twitter to promote herself, as well as manage her own Facebook fan page and a blog.
Her blog, kellymarshallnews.wordpress.com, has been dutifully updated once a month or so.
“Some of it’s about my books, and some of it’s about… I went on a writer’s retreat, and I wrote about that,” she said.
But the new marketing company she’s signed up with wants her to up the pace to three posts a week.
“Blogging is a major thing there,” she said. “So I’m going to have to commit a larger amount of my time blogging and becoming more personal with my readers.”
But online activity and interaction through social media will only get you so far. To go the rest of the way, you have to market yourself in person, she said.
One way she’s pitched herself and her ideas is by attending the Pacific Northwest Writer’s Conference for the last five years.
“That’s very expensive. You’re going to spend about $500. And that’s every summer,” she said.
Even though Marshall broke out of her introverted shell when she went into broadcast, it was still an uncomfortable experience trying to get strangers to pay attention to her and her ideas for books.
“It’s not because I’m necessarily shy, it’s just that you have to approach – I even almost tried to approach J.A. Jance’s agent in the bathroom, and you can’t do that – it’s that kind of a culture, where you have to literally trip people in the hall to get their attention,” she said. “You have to do that. You have to do the hard stuff.”
It helps tremendously if you have a good idea, she continued, adding that the only time she really got attention at the conference was when she pitched her ideas for her mystery murder books, since the romantic premise of the story was unique.
Being interviewed by The Author’s Show, based out of Scottsdale, Ariz., and participate in its annual contest has also helped.
“Look for contests that you can win, just anything that makes you unique,” she said.
Finally, getting your books into local, independent book stores and participating in local events can help build up a loyal fan base.
Marshall said she was a featured author during Enumclaw’s last Fall Wine Walk.
“That turned out to be a lot of fun, to actually go out and meet people,” she said. “I don’t know if people do that much anymore, unless you’re Megyn Kelly or somebody and you’re going to do a book signing.”
But whatever you do, she said, you’ve got to stick with it, no matter what.
“Just love it enough that you’re willing to do whatever it takes to get attention. Don’t be shy telling people who you are and what you do,” she said. “Writers, by nature, are introverts and you have to get over that and just be willing to say, ‘Hey, here I am.’”